I was emailing back and forth with my old friend Grant Morris, a mad New Zealander. I remember when he was an alternative DJ in New Orleans and he’d play my song ‘I Love You Goodbye’ and people would call in and complain about the fact I said ‘county sheriff’ when in fact Louisiana has parishes, not counties; and they’d marvel at how I could drive all night to the Everglades (Florida) and then crash the car and stand there listening to the bayou (Louisiana!) rain. I could only reply that when you’re writing song lyrics, the historical and geographical (and even grammatical!) precision of the words is less important than how it SINGS. Grant wrote me this back today… very pertinent on the lyrical front, but ending with a classic quote about 4th July that could only have come from an elderly New Zealand mum.
“I agree with you 100%. Better that it sings well than makes any literal sense. Iâ€™m not sure that you even WANT a song to make literal sense. Even country songs that are the most literal of all arenâ€™t really. What the hell is a â€œring of fireâ€? When you â€œwalk the lineâ€ how do you actually keep your â€œeye out for the ties that bindâ€? What does that even mean? It would be a pretty funny SNL sketch to sit down with some of the most famous song lyrics in a meeting with an executive and his results of a focus group test. â€œDo you have to WANT to hold her hand? Couldnâ€™t it be something a little more ambitious? Could you want to hold her â€œbagâ€? It could be about shopping and everybody loves to shop donâ€™t they?â€ Looking at lyrics cold without music is crazy. Hey, you know who you might like who sings some pretty good narrative songs, Rodney Crowell. Do you know his stuff? If not check out a 2001 album called The Houston Kid and listen to I Walk The Line (revisited) and youâ€™ll be hooked from there.
Happy 4th of July! I was talking to my mother on Skype yesterday and she asked me â€œWho does the United States celebrate independence from?â€. I told her â€œThe Britishâ€. She looked genuinely surprised and said, â€œDid they have the Poms over there as well?â€.”